Wheel Well: A Two-Day Design Sprint for Bicycle Safety

Over the weekend of November 16-17, 2013, 24 CCA undergraduates participated in Wheel Well, a “design sprint” for bicycle safety in Silicon Valley.

Organized by Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition’s Roadway Safety Solutions Team, CCA’s Center for Art and Public Life, and CCA’s Design division, the event challenged students to rapidly conceive an intervention that would: 1) improve the relationship between motorists and cyclists in Silicon Valley; and 2) encourage behavior change to ensure the safety of everyone on the road.

The Partnership

In May 2012, the Stanford Hospital Trauma Center and the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC) organized a unique coalition of decision makers, the Roadway Safety Solutions Team (RSST). RSST brings together professionals from Northern California government, education, and bicycle advocacy groups to explore strategies for reducing the unacceptably high incidence of cycling crashes on our roadways.

In January 2013, RSST contacted CCA’s Center for Art and Public Life about developing an ENGAGE at CCA course to help realize their roadway safety goals through design. This exciting opportunity to collaborate with a network of external partners sparked an internal partnership between the Center and CCA’s Design division.

The Center enlisted the following CCA faculty members to transform the RSST’s idea for a design course into an interdisciplinary design sprint:

Melanie Doherty (Graphic Design)
Eric Heiman (Graphic Design)
Josh Levine (MBA in Design Strategy)

These faculty members also created a solid plan that would enable students to move smoothly from research to brainstorming to presentation in fewer than 36 hours.

The Event

On the morning of November 16, the student participants met with experts from a variety of backgrounds, including representatives from IDEO, the Menlo Park Police Department, the City of Menlo Park, Redwood City, PenVelo, the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, Caltrans, the Stanford Hospital Trauma Center, the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, RSST, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the California DMV, and Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger (a law firm).

Many of the aforementioned are also Silicon Valley bicyclists.

During this immersive research phase, the experts shared statistics and personal stories with the teams to exemplify their perspectives on, and past efforts toward, bicycle safety.

The remainder of the weekend was devoted to brainstorming and executing the students’ design ideas. Design mentors from Google, Chronicle Books, Confidence, and SMALLIFY, together with Heiman, Doherty, and Katie Barcelona (Graphic Design) and alumna Ulrika Andersson (MFA 2000), dedicated their afternoon to helping the students transform their research into “blue-sky ideas.”

Design mentor Levine arrived after dinner to help the teams hone one great idea with which to proceed. The students worked well into the night, finalizing not only their designs, but also their presentations and prototypes.

Wheel Well culminated on Sunday, when the students presented their ideas to a panel of jurors from Apple, Gensler, Collective Good, Iron Creative Communication, Inneract Project, the California DMV, the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, the SF Municipal Transportation Agency, and the City of Menlo Park.

The Ideas

The winner was bipool, composed solely of international women: Xiaofei Liu (Graphic Design 2015), Jingjing Yang (Graphic Design 2015), Qian Mao (Graphic Design 2015), and Di Wang (Industrial Design 2015).

The team's idea was to create a formal infrastructure for bicycle commute routes. Along with a unique logo, they designed bus stop-like meeting points for bipool users, where a map of the route and departure times would be posted to encourage cyclists to meet up and travel together.

The team also conceived a mobile app that would track persons who bike as well as mapping commonly used routes to popular locations.

The bipool concept is based on the notion of safety in numbers. By increasing bicyclist visibility, it encourages people to bike when they might otherwise be inclined to drive. Increasing the number of cyclists on the road creates a cloak of safety for both novice and veteran cyclists.

The team received $1,500 and will work with SVBC, CCA, and the RSST to prepare a presentation for local jurisdictions and businesses in Silicon Valley.

Continued Opportunities

In the end, all of the teams were exposed to a swath of valuable opportunities.

The ROAD ZEN team was invited to Sacramento by the California DMV and to Palo Alto by Stanford University, to present its campaign promoting peace, mindfulness, and cooperation among road users.

Teams MOODRA and SENSUS were invited to talk with CatEye about their wearable technology proposals. MOODRA designed a signaling system that would allow cyclists to clearly indicate to drivers their intentions to turn left, right, or stop.

SENSUS envisioned a solution for both cyclists and drivers: an armband for cyclists that lights up when a vehicle approaches and a dashboard light that warns drivers that cyclists are nearby.

Teams GreenPowder and Drive Your Bike were encouraged to launch KickStarter campaigns to get their work out into the world as soon as possible. GreenPowder entered a poetic and artistic approach to bicycle safety, proposing green chalk pits at intersections to create a visual map of cycling paths throughout a city.

Drive Your Bike sought to elevate and empower cyclists by aligning their actions on the road with those of drivers.

Interdisciplinary

Wheel Well offered CCA students a wonderful opportunity to collaborate by means of interdisciplinary teams. Based on the Center’s recent research, CCA students are hungry for more partnerships with students from other disciplines.

When signing up for the event, students indicated whether they were joining as individuals or as fully formed teams. Of the six teams that participated, only two were already organized; 16 students registered individually, excited to participate in an activity facilitating work with students from such other programs as Painting/Drawing to Industrial Design.

CCA and the Center are very proud of the diverse ideas and impressive work created during Wheel Well. The event would not have been possible without the tireless work of our many dedicated partners.

We are sincerely grateful for their support and hope this is the beginning of many other fruitful collaborations.